Most of us come into contact with gadgets that use AA batteries every day. They keep clocks, flashlights, smoke alarms, cameras, toys, and more running. It’s also likely that when they eventually go flat, you simply swap them out for whatever you have stashed in a drawer.
But although all AA batteries are the same physical size, they don’t all deliver power in the same way. So just grabbing what’s convenient will often mean losing out on performance and value. We com the most important features the important details so you know the best AA batteries for all the different devices you use.
— Best Overall: Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries
— Best Rechargeable: Panasonic Eneloop AA Batteries
— Best Budget: Amazon Basics High-Performance AA Batteries
— Best for Smoke Detectors: Rayovac High Energy AA Batteries
— Best for Trail Cameras: EBL AA Batteries
HOW WE PICKED THE BEST AA BATTERIES
We researched all the main battery manufacturers, and a few less well-known brands, so we had an in-depth understanding of the key factors that differentiate AA battery performance.
Chemistry: AA batteries are usually defined by their chemistry. They are either alkaline, lithium (various types are available), or nickel metal hydride (NiMH). We cover how this impacts choice in the considerations section below. Our top picks showcase the best of each type.
Performance: Devices use the power stored in an AA battery at different rates, so it was important that we offer batteries that suit as wide a variety of equipment as possible.
Value: Cheap AA batteries are readily available but performance can be disappointing in some gadgets. On the other hand there’s little point putting expensive AA batteries in clocks or TV remotes. Our selection provides options from across the price range.
Best AA Batteries: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries
Why They Made The Cut: The Energizer Ultimate lithium AA battery is currently the clear market leader in terms of performance and reliability, and has the ability to handle extreme temperatures.
— Chemistry: Lithium Iron Disulphide
— Capacity: 3,000 mAh
— Pack Sizes: Four, six, eight, 12, 24
— Reliable high performance
— Extreme temperature range
— 20-year shelf life
— Comparatively expensive
— Counterfeits are common
The decision over which are the overall best AA batteries has to be primarily about power output, and at the moment the Energizer Ultimate Lithium is the clear market leader. It is not just a question of outlasting alkaline alternatives — most lithium batteries do that — but the Energizer Ultimate outperforms other lithium rivals too.
The main reason is the lithium iron disulphide (LiFeS2) chemistry. Usually found in batteries of 3V (volts) and larger, Energizer has produced a 1.5V AA version. In fact the open circuit value (when no power is being drawn by a device) is 1.8V. This, in combination with the class-leading 3,000 mAh capacity, produces consistent power levels for longer than any competitor. These Energizer batteries are an ideal choice for high-drain digital cameras, handheld games, and some of the best flashlights.
Other impressive statistics are a 20-year shelf life, and a working temperature range from -40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re guaranteed leak proof (in normal use), and Energizer claims it is 33 percent lighter than AA alkaline batteries.
It’s expensive for a disposable battery, and we are aware of a number of counterfeits so always buy from reputable sources.
Best Rechargeable: Panasonic Eneloop AA Batteries
Why They Made The Cut: Panasonic’s Eneloop rechargeable AA batteries are packed with features that deliver consistent performance, and solve the common problem of charge draining away when not in use.
— Chemistry: Nickel metal hydride
— Capacity: 2,000 mAh
— Pack Sizes: Four, eight, 16
— Recharge up to 2,100 times
— Pre-charged using solar energy
— Maintains charge well
— Slow charging
It’s not unusual for NiMH batteries to be recharged several hundred times, but eventually the conductive surfaces wear down. Panasonic have dramatically improved this aspect of their Eneloop AA battery, which is rated for up to 2,100 cycles. As a result, while initial investment is comparatively high, these batteries can eventually work out better value than many alternatives.
One of the drawbacks with rechargeable batteries is that when not in use the charge drains away. They often need to be charged before first use, which can be frustrating, and many will go flat over a period of months. Panasonic Eneloop AA batteries are different in two ways. First, they are supplied ready-to-use, having been pre-charged using solar power. Second, while they do lose some charge, they can retain as much as 70 percent for up to 10 years (when stored according to manufacturer instructions).
For convenience, we recommend the Panasonic Eneloop rechargeable AA batteries with charger, which automatically shuts off when batteries reach full capacity. However, bear in mind that charging can take up to 7 hours.
Best Budget: Amazon Basics High-Performance AA Batteries
Why They Made The Cut: The Amazon Basics offer cheap AA batteries that nevertheless provide good shelf life, and perfectly acceptable performance for a whole host of common electronic devices.
— Chemistry: Alkaline
— Capacity: 2,200 - 2,500 mAh (see below)
— Pack Sizes: Four, eight, 10, 20, 48, 72, 100
— Competitive performance
— 10-year shelf life
— Low price
— Variable durability
— Leaks are rare, but possible
Some people like the simple convenience of having a packet of cheap disposable AA batteries tucked in a drawer or cupboard. For them, the Amazon Basics alkaline version offers a good compromise between price and performance. Larger pack sizes provide particularly good economy.
When compared with lithium AA batteries, the capacity is modest, but it’s perfectly acceptable for household items like clocks, toys, TV remotes, and small flashlights. However, we would not recommend them for high-drain devices. Shelf life is 10 years, and the design is intended to prevent leaking.
Amazon Basics does not provide technical information, so the 2,200 to 2,500 mAh rating is taken from online sources who have made their own measurements. The challenge is that different devices draw different amounts of power so this is only an approximate guide.
While the vast majority of those who commented are happy with their purchase, a small percentage have complained of batteries running flat more quickly than expected. Leaks have also been reported though not in significant numbers.
Best for Smoke Detectors: Rayovac High-Energy AA Batteries
Why They Made The Cut: Rayovac’s US-made, high-energy AA batteries are a direct competitor to well-known premium brand alkaline versions but at a more competitive price.
— Chemistry: Alkaline
— Capacity: 2,000 mAh
— Pack Sizes: 12, 30, 42, 60, 72
— Consistent power delivery
— Good value
— Not best in high-drain gadgets
— Occasional leaks
The Rayovac High Energy AA battery is targeted at the gap in the market between expensive lithium batteries for high-drain equipment, and cheap alkaline batteries for low-drain gadgets.
They’re designed for mid-range devices like large toys, wireless computer mice, personal grooming equipment, and smoke detectors. These don’t need absolute power, but do require consistent delivery over an extended period. Rayovac’s High Energy AA batteries deliver that long-term reliability, at a price that’s around 30 percent lower than big-brand competitors.
Rayovac batteries are made in the US, and use ‘power preserve’ technology to provide a shelf-life of 10 years. They’re designed to be leak-proof, which can be a problem with some cheap AA batteries.
Rayovac’s High Energy alkaline AA batteries are very popular. We have seen a few reports from dissatisfied buyers, but almost all are from users complaining about poor recharging. This is odd, because these are single-use, disposable AA batteries. They are not rechargeable.
Best for Trail Cameras: EBL AA Batteries
Why It Made The Cut: EBL’s NiMH rechargeable AA batteries provide a cost-effective solution for powering both high-drain devices, and those that need steady power over long periods.
— Chemistry: Nickel Metal Hydride
— Capacity: 2,800 mAh
— Pack Sizes: Four, eight, 16, 28
— Long-lasting performance
— Operate at temperatures below freezing
— 1,200 recharge cycles
— Not pre-charged
— May not be compatible
While researching the question of which AA battery is best for trail cameras came up quite often. Many people choose high-power lithium disposable AAs for the job, but this can be expensive. The EBL NiHM is one of the best rechargeable batteries for this purpose, offering stable power in all conditions, and saving money in the long term.
These batteries have an operating range from -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so they keep providing charge in all but the most extreme weather conditions. A capacity of 2,800 mAh gives impressive durability in high-drain devices, and they can be recharged 1,200 times. Although they aren’t pre-charged they hold power well, and can retain up to 80 percent of capacity for three years (when stored according to directions).
However, NiMH batteries are not compatible with some trail cameras made before 2011. This is a technical issue with all 1.5V NiMH, not just those from EBL. In use, battery voltage can drop to 1.2V, and some trail cameras will shut down at this level. Fortunately modern trail cameras don’t shut off until below 1V per cell, so for them the EBL rechargeable AA is a reliable and economical choice.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING AA BATTERIES
The key feature of AA batteries is their chemistry though it is also worth checking capacity, when details are available.
Alkaline: Alkaline AA batteries have been around for well over 100 years. They are a proven, low-cost option. They are ideal for low-drain devices, and have good shelf life. They can leak, particularly if left in a gadget after they have gone flat. They don’t perform well in high-drain equipment.
Lithium: Lithium AA battery descriptions can be confusing, because three types are now common: lithium; lithium-iron disulphide (LiFeS2), both of which are disposable; and lithium ion, which are rechargeable. Ordinary lithium batteries are by far the more popular type, and are usually specified for high-drain gadgets. LiFeS2 offers even better performance. However, both are significantly more expensive than alkaline AAs.
NiMH: Most rechargeable AA batteries are nickel metal hydride (NiMH), which usually out-performs lithium-ion alternatives. While initial cost is comparatively high, they can be recharged hundreds of times, so frequently save money in the long run. However, NiMH AA batteries are self-discharging when not in use so may need recharging if left for several months. They typically have a shelf life of five to seven years.
Capacity: All AA batteries are rated at 1.5 volts (V), though actual output can fluctuate between around 1.2V and 1.6V, depending on chemistry. In most cases this makes little difference to the device being powered.
Batteries also have a mAh (milliAmp hours) rating. This can be compared to fuel. If you have two AA batteries, one rated at 1,500 mAh, and the other at 3,000 mAh, then the second example will run for roughly twice as long when used in the same gadget.
Q: Are all AA batteries the same?
No. They’re all the same physical size, but there are differences in performance. Our descriptions of the picks above will help you choose the best AA batteries for a variety of uses.
Q: What's the difference between AA and AAA batteries?
An AA battery (also called a double a battery) is physically larger than an AAA (triple a) battery. Although they are both rated at 1.5V, they are not interchangeable. Additionally, because an AA battery is larger, it’s normally capable of supplying charge for longer than a AAA version.
Q: Are lithium AA batteries better than alkaline?
Lithium AA batteries are more expensive than alkaline versions, but maintain performance for longer. They are definitely the better choice for gadgets that need a lot of power. However, for low-power devices, AA alkaline batteries are fine, and are significantly cheaper.
Q: How long do AA batteries last?
Most manufacturers give the shelf life of AA batteries as between five and 10 years, though up to 20 years is possible. How long they last in use varies tremendously, and depends on the device being powered. In a high-drain device like a digital camera they might last just a few hours. In a smoke detector, AA batteries should last six months or more.
The Energizer Ultimate Lithium is an easy pick as the best AA battery. The LiFeS2 chemistry makes them more powerful, for longer, than any rival. They’re expensive, but if you need to rely on a battery for your digital camera, or other important equipment, they’re worth the investment. The Amazon Basics alkaline is what everyone likes to keep in a drawer for when the clock stops or the TV remote isn’t working. They’re cheap and perfectly adequate for low-drain devices.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.